Actors often talk about "one for me and one for them". This refers to the types of projects they take on, ideally switching between big budget blockbusters and small indie flicks with a heart of gold. An oversimplification, but one thing is for certain - for A-list superstars Richard Gere ('Pretty Woman'), Susan Sarandon ('Thelma & Louise'), Diane Keaton ('Annie Hall'), Emma Roberts ('We're The Millers'), William H. Macy ('Fargo') and Luke Bracey ('Elvis'), 'Maybe I Do' could not be more of a "one for them" if they tried.
You would think that just simply putting these heavy hitters in a room together is a recipe for success, without the need for any added ingredients, but debutant director Michael Jacobs proves that no, you really do need to give them something to feed off. I hate being overly critical of any film because I know it's a really tough job making them and I'm damn sure I couldn't do any better, but with a busy life schedule you look forward to your time with a film, and 'Maybe I Do' really let me down in more ways than one.
Based on a play that Jacobs wrote when he was 19 (more on that later), 'Maybe I Do' sees three couples with varying degrees of issues, arguments, foibles and misdemeanours. Michelle and Allen, which reunites Roberts and Bracey from their romance on Netflix's 'Holidate', are a young couple madly in love, but the boat is rocked when Michelle demands commitment and Allen isn't taking the bait. Grace and Sam are two people who have forgotten what it feels like to be loved, and find each other in a cinema and immediately sense an attraction - if not in body than certainly in mind. We meet Howard and Monica for the first time in a hotel room, both completely disenfranchised with whatever their marriage has become, and both feeling the effects of Howard not wanting a life of infidelity anymore.
Michelle wants some time away from Allen while they both figure out what they want, and for some reason, unlike any other film about young love I've seen recently, they both go and stay at their dysfunctional parents' houses. There, audiences realise that it's actually Michelle's parents Grace and Howard that are one couple, and Allen's parents Sam and Monica that are the other. The setup is afoot when Michelle arranges a dinner with the two families so they can all decide the best way forward. Again, a fairly weird environment to make that kind of decision.
The setup is seen from a mile away, revealed in the trailer, makes little sense at the best of times, and yet it still takes an hour (!) to come to fruition. The entire set up could have been 10 minutes of screen time, and then a tense and possibly terrifying dinner scene the remaining 80 minutes. Instead, there is an opening act that takes most of the runtime. An act that is disjointed, non-sensical, cringey and downright dull. It shifts and cuts between the three couples not unlike something you might find in 'Love Actually', but this is done in a completely incoherent and inconsistent manner. The music keeps changing, the moods keep changing, the feelings we as an audience are meant to grasp keep changing, and what's left is an imbalance with no real flow. Further to this, there are about 10 establishing shots of New York cut between the scenes. Everything takes place on one night; we know where we are, stop showing us skylines.
'Maybe I Do' asks about what love really is, and whether we can handle the conflict of a life lived versus a life deserved. It often feels as though the weak dialogue that Jacobs has based this on are the ideas of love expressed in other (and better) films, and not love in life itself.
I suppose Jacobs is trying to fill in the time, which a shallow and bland script will force you to do. As mentioned, Jacobs wrote this as a play when he was 19, which makes complete sense considering the approach to love in the film. Ultimately, 'Maybe I Do' asks about what love really is, and whether we can handle the conflict of a life lived versus a life deserved. Nothing wrong with that as a theme, but it often feels as though the weak dialogue that Jacobs has based this on are the ideas of love expressed in other (and better) films, and not love in life itself. So many of the interactions between characters reminded me of those voiceover summaries you get at the end of sitcoms, a la 'Scrubs' or 'Grey's Anatomy'. It was annoying how every conversation tried to capture what love is in such a general way yet felt completely meaningless.
There is no doubt these A-list heavyweights are worth their weight in gold, with Sarandon and Macy a fantastic on-screen pairing. Sarandon plays a fairly psychotic and resentful woman who is really bringing the only fun to the table, and Macy as a lost puppy type figure brings the only sense of heart. Gere, for all his charisma and screen legacy, really feels like he doesn't want to be there. Roberts just seems happy to be invited, but her character is unbelievably childish and irritating - although that may say more about me than her.
Drab and completely uninspiring, 'Maybe I Do' lacks everything you want from a good rom-com. There is no spark, no imagination, and nothing that makes you want to turn to the person next to you, sweep them up from their seat and start dancing in the rain. That's what these movies are meant to do. Weirdly, this film does try to finish with a happy ending, which really adds to the awkwardness of everything thats come before it.
If you're thinking "Maybe I should for 'Maybe I Do'" - well, maybe don't.